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A Marketplace for Sponsors?

by | November 16, 2023

Why you can trust Sponsorship Collective

  • The Sponsorship Collective has worked with over 1000 clients from every property type all over North America and Europe, working with properties at the $50,000 level to multi-million dollar campaigns, events and multi-year naming rights deals
  • We have published over 300 YouTube videos, written over 500,000 words on the topic and published dozens of research reports covering every topic in the world of sponsorship
  • All of our coaches and consultants have real world experience in sponsorship sales

There’s a marketplace for just about anything and everything these days. Vintage clothes? That’s right. Video game streaming? You bet. Services like hotel booking or transportation? Definitely.

Yet what if there was such a marketplace for sponsors? You can imagine sponsors congregated in such a marketplace, ripe for the picking.

Oh, how easy it would be to obtain sponsors at a marketplace like this!

Does such a thing even exist?  That’s a question that more and more sponsorship seekers are asking me, so I figured I’d take some time to talk about sponsorship marketplaces today.

Does a Sponsorship Marketplace Exist?

I’ve established that there’s a marketplace and an app for everything. 

I can definitely appreciate today’s sponsorship seekers hoping and wishing that such a marketplace existed where sponsors were looking to find suitable partners or even that there was an app where someone with a huge contacts list could connect you to a sponsor. 

It sounds almost too good to be true though, right? 

That’s because it is. Sponsorship marketplaces and apps don’t exist. 

Fortune 500 companies are not sitting around hamming it up on a marketplace hoping that a smaller company happens to come by with a decent sponsorship proposal.

When you think about it, that’s simply unrealistic. A Fortune 500 company, to be within the very prestigious position that it’s in, cannot afford to spend its time seeking out potential sponsorship partners.

They’re focused on making money by introducing new products and services, improving current products and services, and bettering their customer service. 

Even if such an app or marketplace were to exist, why would a Fortune 500 company use it? These companies have no shortage of sponsorship prospects because of their status alone. They don’t need any help in obtaining companies to work with.

It’s the sponsorship seekers who need help.

An app or marketplace that only benefits one of the two parties that use it is not one that will survive for very long! 

The Dangers of Taking Shortcuts in Sponsorship

On a hard day of prospecting when you emailed 10 people and called another 10 and no one got back to you, it’s easy to want to throw up your hands. 

There’s a difference though between the frustrated or tired sponsorship seeker who wants a marketplace versus the ones actively looking for them.

In the latter case, you’re probably also seeking a shortcut, right? Well, I’ve made it clear many times on the blog that sponsorship has no shortcuts. There are no hacks or easier ways to get it done. 

By seeking avenues that could act as shortcuts, you could find yourself in a rather dangerous predicament. Allow me to share this cautionary tale to show you what I mean. 

The star of this story is a client who I will call Linda. 

Linda called our team at the Sponsorship Collective and was insistent on finding a sponsorship shortcut. She was sure that a sponsorship marketplace, database, or app had to be out there, she just had to locate it.

So she did some digging and did eventually come across what seemed at the time to be a promising lead.

This person said that they could help her find the sponsorship opportunities she sought. It would only cost her $25,000.

Linda had the money available from her startup, so she sent this guy the cash.

What do you think happened?

That’s right, nothing. The guy made off with the cash and Linda didn’t get what she was promised at all. She got swindled.

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I speak with hundreds and hundreds of sponsorship seekers on the phone all the time, and I have heard this story more times than I’m happy to count. 

If not Linda, then it’s another sponsorship seeker. It’s Bob or Joan or Kim or Mike. It doesn’t matter the name after a while, only that this is happening far too much. 

When you join an online dating website, you do so knowing there are scammers and swindlers out there. 

However, in the sponsorship world, far too little light has been shed on the fact that there are swindlers in our industry who will just as easily take advantage.

People prey on naivete and desperation. If you want something badly enough, anyone can say they’ll make it happen, but that doesn’t always mean it will happen. 

What makes me saddest about Linda’s situation isn’t the loss of $25,000. I’m not sleeping on that sum at all. I recognize that it’s a lot of money.

Linda also lost something much more precious, her time, and quite a lot of it. She was on the hook with this guy for eight months assuming she was going to have access to all the sponsorship prospects in the world.

She poured her effort and energy into this business relationship and in the end, she had nothing to show for it. She’s also $25,000 poorer.

Linda’s business ultimately went under too.

Sorry if you were hoping for a happy ending. I really wish there was one, but not this time. 

A Word from the Horse’s Mouth

I don’t only know and work with sponsorship seekers but sponsors themselves. 

I recently talked to one of my sponsor friends and picked her brain a little. 

She mentioned to me that in a month, her company receives 10,000 unsolicited sponsorship proposals. Now, she works for a big company, but still, that’s a lot of proposals!

At no time is her company asking for these proposals; they’re unsolicited, you’ll recall. That means they all end up in the trash, be that the physical trashcan or the digital one in the corner of the computer screen.

So then I asked her if having a database or marketplace where her name could be put out there and people would know that her company wanted to see more sponsorship proposals would in any way be helpful for her.

Do you know what my sponsor friend said? That sounds like the absolute worst move her company could make.

Her company doesn’t have a separate sponsorship email address, a sponsorship form, none of it. The 10,000 people per month who find her do so despite the fact that she doesn’t really want her company to be found. 

Joining a database where she’d be even more inundated was to my friend a very unappealing prospect. 

I can’t say that all sponsors will feel the same, mind you, but in my personal experience, enough will.

Take it straight from the horse’s mouth, as the old saying goes. Sponsors don’t benefit from this holy grail of a sponsorship marketplace that sponsorship seekers dream about.

Sponsors are hard to find because they want to be hard to find. 

This Is How You Win Sponsorship

If sponsorship has no magic bullet, then how do you go about doing it in a way that gets results? I’m so glad you asked!

This succinct review of the entire process will tell you what you need to know. 

Know Your Audience

I don’t care if you’re a small business or a nonprofit. Without your audience, you have nothing. 

Your audience is comprised of people who buy your products and services and keep you afloat. In the case of a nonprofit, your audience donates to you or supports you in other ways.

You have to know your audience inside and out before you even begin looking for sponsors. You should leave absolutely no stone unturned.

You want to know where your audience lives (I don’t mean street address but the city, town, or neighborhood), what level of education they completed, if they’re single or married, what industry they work in, how much money they make, and if they have kids.

Then you need to strain this information as if pouring something through a sieve until you get all the big chunks out. 

Your audience groups should be divided into ultra-specific and small niches or groups based on the above criteria.

A sponsor has a target audience too. If they say they’re looking to break into the market of 20-something moms in Chicago, you can jump in and say, “take a look at this segment of my audience…”

That’s how you begin to get a sponsor’s interest, no app required. 


When planning your event, program, or opportunity, you only want sponsors that your audience will gravitate toward.

That doesn’t always mean a Fortune 500 company! If enough of your audience is into–let’s say, organic dairy–and you have an organic dairy farm in your neighborhood that’s still at the startup level, they could be a great sponsor.

How do you find those dairy farms, i.e., the companies and brands that get your audience excited?

From your audience survey. 

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In the survey, you want to ask about the brands your audience likes and uses and the brands that advertise to them.

From there, you can create a list of brands and companies that should be advertising to your audience.

I also recommend finding the direct competitors of every brand you have listed. A dairy brand has plenty of competitors, from Nestle to Lactaid and the Dairy Farmers of America. 

If you can’t get Dairy Brand A for any reason, you can always fall back on those competitors. You know your audience likes organic dairy, so any brand that has organic dairy should suffice. 

Set up a Discovery Session

Now that you have a ton of prospects to contact, it’s time to start going down the list and reaching out. 

It’s best if you have a common contact at the sponsor company, but I recognize that for many sponsorship seekers, cold calling or cold emailing is the best you can do.

When you do reach out, you have one goal in mind, and that’s setting up an exploratory meeting called the discovery session. 

During the discovery session, you ask questions of your sponsor to learn about what their company’s current challenges are.

For example, maybe they’re struggling with the sales of a new product, or their social media is underperforming.

The answers that you hear to these questions help you determine how viable of a partner you are to the prospect.

If you can’t do anything for their problems, then you two aren’t a good fit. 

Should you have an asset or activation that can fulfill the sponsor’s needs, then now you two could be in business. 

Value Your Assets

Assets are tangibles and intangibles you offer to a sponsor to propel their goals into the stratosphere.

Using the example before of a company with underperforming social media, one of your assets could be social media services. 

Assets have varying values depending on what the assets are. Logos on signs, for example, will never be worth much, nor will sponsor shoutouts from the podium during a speech.

To determine how valuable an asset is, you need to research the market value for that asset. Use the price of professional services as the guideline to either raise your prices, lower them, or leave them where they are. 


You and the sponsor will have many meetings between the discovery session and the negotiation phases. You’ll talk about things like assets and activations, audience data, the whole nine.

They may ask for you to produce a sponsorship proposal, but then just as well they might not. Either way, eventually, the time will come to put it all in writing.

I always recommend that before penning a contract with a sponsor that you have a lawyer look over everything to ensure an equitable deal for both parties.

A contract will make clear how much money the sponsor will pay you and also outline all your deliverables. 

If you feel like you can’t deliver on everything, don’t sign that contract until you can amend it. Once it’s signed, sealed, and delivered, you’re legally on the hook. 


The day of your event, program, or opportunity has finally arrived. It’s a very exciting time, as your assets and activations will come to fruition, and you hope you’ll achieve as many of the sponsor’s goals as promised. 

Produce a Fulfillment Report 

Whether you were a delivering superstar or you fell short will all come out in the fulfillment report or post-event report.

This report should be ready to go on the sponsor’s desk ideally within a few days of the event and no more than a week after. 

The fulfillment report includes a recap of your audience data, photos of your event (especially your sponsor’s activation), attendance data, and other relevant data such as number of visits to the sponsor’s booth. 

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You should also go over all the assets you promised your sponsor as well whether you came through on them. 

When your report is sent your sponsor’s way, set up a time for a follow-up meeting to discuss the contents of the report. This meeting can also serve as a jumping-off point to discuss negotiating again for next year if you’re interested! 


There is no exclusive virtual club out there where sponsors hang out waiting for an especially determined and inquisitive sponsorship seeker such as yourself to burst through the doors and demand their time.

Sponsors don’t benefit from such an arrangement, so the idea of a sponsorship app or marketplace will always be just that, an idea. 

There is no replacing hard work in sponsorship. You won’t find any viable shortcuts or hacks or magic bullets. Anyone who promises you that such a thing exists is trying to swindle you, so don’t pay them a cent, please!